Film Industry FAQ

Questions about careers and working in the film and television industry? Here are some quick answers to commonly asked questions.

Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Screenplay on Budget

Scriptwriting Techniques

What is the difference between a Shooting Script and a Spec Script?

A shooting script is the final version of the screenplay that is in production. This script has notations, such as directorial elements, shots, effects, etc.(i.e., CU, PAN CAMERA).

A spec script is a screenplay that a writer writes to sell to a prospective producer and should not contain shooting elements.

What is the difference between a treatment and a synopsis?

A synopsis is usually a one- or two-page summary of your story that is used to give someone an idea of what your story is about beyond the logline. A treatment is a long form narrative telling of your story. This is more detailed than a synopsis and can run anywhere from three pages on up.

What is meant by 3-Act Structure?

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. No matter what screenplay structure format you adhere to, this does not change. Dividing your story into these three parts gives your story its structure. For more, see our guide here.

What is an inciting incident?

This is the plot point of the story that happens to the main character that changes the direction of the story. It normally happens around page 10-11 in a typical feature-length script. This is different from the Call-to-Action which usually occurs near the end of the first act. The inciting incident is passive (happens to the main character) while the Call-to-Action is active.

What information belongs in a scene heading?

There are three elements to a scene heading: Interior or Exterior (i.e., INT or EXT.), Location and Time of Day. Other elements that might appear in the scene heading are things like FLASHBACK, YEAR, MONTAGE although these can also be placed in the action for simplification. For more, see our guide here.

Should I use "CUT TO:" my script?

A “CUT TO” as a transition between scenes is generally used in Shooting Scripts. It is not really used in a spec script.

What makes for a good logline?

A good logline should be as short as possible while enticing someone to want to read your script. The logline should contain your descriptive main character (“a Kansas farm girl”), the goal (“to get back home”) and the obstacle (“a wicked witch”). For more, click here.

What is Revision Mode?

When a script is in production, it enters “revision mode.” This means that changes (text additions and deletions, scene omissions) made to the script are denoted by an asterisk and pages and scenes are locked. This is designed to make it easier for production crew to follow any script changes while a script is in production. For more, click here.

If a script is in production and a scene is deleted, should it be deleted from the screenplay?

Once a screenplay enters production, all changes should be noted in the script. This means that a scene is never totally omitted from the screenplay. Rather, the text of the scene is removed and replaced by a “Scene Omitted” notation with the scene number still attached.

What is meant by "Central Dramatic Question?"

The Central Dramatic Question refers to whether your protagonist will succeed by the end and how. For more, click here.

What does "foreshadow" and "payoff" mean?

In any screenplay, there are elements placed in the story that will pay off later. It is like the classic scene where a character places a gun in a drawer at the start of the story. The audience knows that this will come back later, or pay off, in the story. These are also sometimes called call-forwards and call-backs. For more, click here.

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The Business of Screenwriting

Do I need to register my script?

While registering your script offers some level of protection, the US Library of Congress Copyright Office being the best, many jurisdictions consider just the act of creating the script to offer legal protection. It’s best to check with your country for laws and how to register.

Where should I register my script?

In the US, the Library of Congress Copyright Office is the best place to register your screenplay as this offers the best legal protection. You can also register your script through the Writers Guild (WGA). Non-US citizens can use both services.


How much does it cost to get a script translated?

Most translators will take a minimum of $0.15 per word. A 120-page script contains on average 15,000 words – So you can estimate that the budget to translate a script is somewhere between $2000 and $2,500. Of course this will vary, depending on the consultant, and the nature of your script.

Is the US Screenplay format used in Europe?

In general, yes. However, a US script would be formatted as “US Letter” while a European script uses A4. Note that some production companies have variations, so if you’re submitting to a particular company that has a specific format, it’s a good idea to use that format. Keep in mind that a spec script would not be rejected for this, so long as you use the standard screenplay format.

How can I find an agent or manager?

The best way to get an agent or manager is through a client referral. A current client of an agent or manager would recommend you to them, after which the agent or manager would request a writing sample and any filmography. Otherwise, some agents or managers are willing to accept unsolicited material. You would write a short query email that includes your script’s logline and a few sentences about your experience, including any awards won. The shorter, the better.

What is the difference between an agent and a manager?

Managers generally focus more on career-building longer-term planning and success. They usually work closer with you on guiding your career than an agent would, as they often have fewer clients. An agent focuses more on getting deals done by selling your script or getting you hired for a specific project and are more immediacy-driven. Many successful writers have both a manager and an agent.

What is the difference between a treatment and a synopsis?

A synopsis is usually a one- or two-page summary of your story that is used to give someone an idea of what your story is about beyond the logline. A treatment is a long form narrative telling of your story. This is more detailed than a synopsis and can run anywhere from three pages on up.

What is Revision Mode?

When a script is in production, it enters “revision mode.” This means that changes (text additions and deletions, scene omissions) made to the script are denoted by an asterisk and pages and scenes are locked. This is designed to make it easier for production crew to follow any script changes while a script is in production. For more, click here.

Should I pay for someone to critique my script?

Feedback and critique are vital to any screenwriter who wants to improve their script. If you are fortunate to know people in the industry who is willing to give you impartial feedback, this can be invaluable. But many writers don’t have access to experts. Asking family and friends will usually not give you the detailed critique you need. In this case, look at paying someone for their expertise as an investment in your screenplay’s and, ultimately, your career’s success.

What is the best software for screenwriting?

While there are many options on the market, Final Draft is, by far, the most widely used by professionals in the industry, production companies and studios. So, while you may choose one of the others available, which will work fine, you may find that if your script goes into production, the production company may require you to do revisions on Final Draft. For more, click here.

You may also consider Writersduet, a cloud-based scriptwriting application gaining more recognition in the industry, especially with the new generation of screenwriters and directors. In addition to being 100% cross-compatible with Final Draft 10,11 and 12, it offers many great features and production reports. It also includes additional templates, such as multi-column format for writing documentaries and commercials. Finally, WritersDuet interface is available in several languages.

first-time film producer

Film / Video Production

What is the difference between a production schedule and a shooting schedule?

There is often a great deal of confusion between what is referred to as a Production Schedule and a Shooting Schedule.
The Production Schedule is what you are budgeting for the entire length of the production.
A Shooting Schedule is usually a concentrated period when the film project is shot, aka Principal Photography.


At which stage of your production do you need a storyboard?

It’s only when the movie has been greenlit that a director will start working on a proper storyboard to convey his ideas. Directors don’t necessarily need to storyboard the entire script, but rather a few key scenes that might be more complex to shoot. These storyboards will include camera and actor movements.

What is a Co-Production?

A co-production is a business partnership between producers. However, it’s not a co-venture. Each production entity remains totally independent and the production that results from the implementation of a co-production partnership is co-owned by the co-production partners, which both become copyright owners once completed.

What is meant by Majority Producer?

The majority producer is the partner that is responsible for the larger share of the financing. They would own the larger share of copyright and future revenues, subject to further arrangements. However, being the majority producer does not necessarily mean that you have more decision power than the other co-producers.

What is a co-production treaty?

A Co-Production Treaty is a bilateral convention between two countries set up to facilitate cooperation between the co-producers of each country. In some cases, it can provide for specific selective funding sources contributed by each country.

When is the best time to bring a composer into my project?

Finding the right composer for your film or TV/web series project takes time and should not be rushed. Think of it like casting actors. You need to go through the process of selection. This should start as early as possible–pre-production.–by listening to potential composers and analysing the type of music that you feel best fits your project. Then, creating a relationship with a composer is vital to making sure the music is right. For more on this, see our ebook, The Scoring Chain.

How long should an episode of a web series be?

The ideal is to keep an episode length to 4-6 minutes, at least in the early stages. Once you have an audience hooked, you can stretch it out. Web audiences have particularly short attention spans and there is so much content out there. So keeping episodes short and concise is key, all the while maintaining your voice in the writing. For more about developing a web series, check out our guide.

What is meant by Above-the-Line and Below-the-Line?

The terms refer to the production budget where a line was drawn to separate key players on a film production. Those who are above-the-line are involved in the creative direction of the project and have negotiated their pay prior to principal shooting. Below-the-line comprises the crew needed to complete the production once principal shooting begins.

What is the difference between a Producer and and Executive Producer?

The Executive Producer is most often the financier of the project and is not involved in the day-to-day creative process. They define the best financing strategy for the movie and work closely with the Producer, reaching out to the potential distributors, sales agents, public funding bodies or other partners.

The Producer is the boss on the production, hiring the director and the screenwriter(s) and are involved in every stage of the script development, along with the crew. During post-production, the producer oversees all aspects of the process, including hiring editorial and effects teams, and the editing of trailers for marketing purposes.

What is a 1st AD (First Assistant Director) and 2nd AD?

The 1st AD is considered the director’s right hand person. On smaller productions, there is just one Assistant Director or AD that takes on all the roles of the various Assistant Directors, while on larger productions, there would be a 2nd and even 3rd AD. The 2nd AD will assist the 1st AD on any tasks and will often create the daily call sheets.

The 1st AD has many roles during both pre- and during production. In pre-production, the 1st AD will break down the shots from the script and create a storyboard, then consult with the director to determine shot order and scheduling.

During production, the 1st AD runs the set each day, ensuring the proper cast and crew are scheduled, extras are placed, scenes are set up properly (equipment, props, etc.), and making sure shooting stays on schedule. The 1st AD is the liaison between cast and crew and the Director.

What does a Script Supervisor do?

The role of Script Supervisor is technically part of the directing team as they work with the director to ensure the script’s continuity. This means keeping track of the script as to what has been shot and what has deviated from the script.

The Script Supervisor also makes notes on all shots regarding props and actors’ blocking positions matched from scene to scene. They provide scene and take numbers for the production slate, as well as working with the Still Photographer to ensure visual continuity.

What is a Gaffer?

Gaffer is the colloquial name for Chief Lighting Technician. They head the electrical department and work directly with the Director of Photography (DP) to set up lighting for every shot. This includes maintaining generators, cables, lights and gels to achieve certain effects.

While any ultimate decisions on how shots are lit are made by the DP, the gaffer implements and oversees the actual physical mechanics of setting up the lighting properly.

What is a Best Boy?

The Best Boy is the primary assistant to the Gaffer (Chief Lighting Technician) or Key Grip. Grips, such as the Key Grip , Best Boy Grip and Dolly Grip assist in the physical elements of the electric equipment, such as cables and dolly tracks.

As to the origin of the name, it is believed that back in the old days of film, when a gaffer or grip wasn’t available, the call went out for help from the “best boy” available. Despite the word “boy” in the title, it is a gender-neutral position. Today, it is often shortened to “Best”.

What is Pre-Production?

Pre-Production (Prep) refers to the period prior to the shoot. It begins when the budget has been finalised and shooting dates are locked. At this stage, teams are built and preparation for the shoot begins. Depending on the size of the production, the prep phase can last between 8 weeks to a few months.

What does a Line Producer do?

The Line Producer manages the day-to-day aspects of the production, most importantly the budget. Once the production date is set, the first person hired to manage the production is the Line Producer. They can be compared to the manager of a project in business as they are the key liaison between the producer and all activity on the production set. In essence, they are the bridge between the Above-the-line personnel and the Below-the-line crew.

By monitoring and facilitating such aspects as location scouting, schedules, crew and equipment, the Line Producer ensures the production is running smoothly, on time and on budget. In addition, this position is in charge of the health and safety on the set, so certified knowledge in both areas are required.

What is a Production Manager?

The Production Manager, sometimes referred to as the Unit Production Manager (UPM), works under the Line Producer and handles the administrative tasks of ensuring equipment arrives on time, for example, and everything stays on budget. They are more hands-on with the physical aspects of production than the Line Producer.

During pre-production, the UPM will be hired at the point when the production needs to be scheduled and on-set crew is to be hired. They will be involved with cost estimation and negotiation pay rates.

Once in production, the UPM makes sure the set runs smoothly, the production stays on time and on budget, and reports regularly to the Producer.

On smaller productions, this position may be combined with the role of the Line Producer.

Agents and Managers: Important Tips for Gaining Representation

Acting / Actors

How do I get acting experience to build my reel?

Some of the best ways to gain valuable experience and material for your reel is to audition for student films and low-budget productions. Check out local film schools and Facebook groups for new directors looking for talent. You may not get paid (or much) but you’ll find great opportunities for the future.

How can I find a good acting school if I don't live in a large city?

One of the outcomes of COVID lockdowns is that many prestigious acting teachers have brought their lessons online. You’ll find many fine acting classes available to you from anywhere.

How can I find an acting agent?

Building your reel with student films and low-budget productions as well as taking acting classes that offer showcases for agents and casting directors is a great way to start. Getting professional headshots and sending them along with the link to the reel also shows a potential agent you’re serious and committed.

What is the best type of headshot?

Most experts agree that a generic headshot is the least desirable. Rather, the headshot should highlight your personality and roles you should be playing. Put yourself in the most marketable position. If your “look” is better for criminal roles, have a headshot that shows that off. Likewise, if you have the look that says business leader or politician, have your headshot reflect that. Generic headshots are just that–generic. They don’t help you stand out.

I have an accent. Should I lose it?

Today, television and film are more global than ever. Your accent can be an advantage to help you get roles as it becomes a “calling card”. Consider learning other accents and dialects to make you more marketable. A good vocal coach can help you soften an accent if it’s strong. But it’s not necessary to “lose” your accent.

What should I look for in an acting coach?

The number one qualification in choosing an acting coach is to find one that inspires you. Of course, there are other things to consider, such as the coach’s personality, how much you can afford, and what acting techniques they use (e.g. Method acting, Strasberg, Meisner, etc.). In addition, the location is important. Are they easily accessible? If not, do they offer online training? And, if so, will that suffice for your needs. Finally, how respected are they in the industry? Talking to other students, present and former, is a good way to gauge their success. And yours.
short festival webinar

Short Movies

How can I submit my short film to a festival?

Short film festivals utilize online platforms specifically designed for short film submissions. In addition to uploading your film, you can upload additional materials to promote the film, such as a press kit or still photos. Some popular platforms are Film Freeway and Short Film Depot.

We recommend that you check with the festival you want to enter to see which platform(s) they use.

What is a Film Distributor and should I use one for getting my short film into festivals?

A distributor works on the two commercial aspects of your film: getting your film promoted in festivals and getting your film sold to TV networks, streaming services, cinemas, and even airlines for in-flight entertainment. Distributors tend to have important relationships with Festival Directors of Programming, which will certainly help to boost the visibility of your film. Of course, this comes with a cost, which you need to weigh over the benefits of doing it all yourself as usually take a commission fee of up to 30-35% of the selling price.

What is a Film Press Kit

While not exclusive to short films, having a press kit for your short is important for entering into film festivals. It’s is your film’s calling card that includes information about your film that a distributor, acquisition company, journalists, etc. can read at a glance. A good press kit contains a cover sheet, two-line pitch, synopsis, stills, credits and bios, mission statement and any awards or accolades. For more, see our guide here.

How long should my short film run?

A good short should run anywhere between 3 – 15 pages. If you consider, on average, that one page equals one minute, having a short run longer than 15 minutes could be an obstacle to marketing your short film.

This is especially true if you want to enter the finished film into festivals, as this is considered the sweet spot for submission length. For first time filmmakers, whether they be a writer/director or a writer and director team, the shorter the better (3-5 pages).

Writer and Screenwriter

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